NEWS

Extending mandatory mask use mulled

extending-mandatory-mask-use-mulled

As Europe braces for a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic and Greece sees a small but steady rise of infections, the government is examining the possibility of expanding the mandatory use of masks in more indoor spaces, in addition to supermarkets.

“The rise in infections in urban centers reminds us that the virus is still here,” government spokesman Stelios Petsas said on Monday. He said the “enemy” in the fight against the coronavirus is within, pointing to relaxed attitudes to safety measures. 

This is the reason the government has already cancelled village festivals and imposed masks in supermarkets, he said. “In the next few days, if it is deemed necessary, the use of a mask will be made mandatory in more enclosed [public] spaces,” Petsas added. 

He said the matter is being discussed by the expert committee advising the government, which will issue its recommendation “in a matter of hours or days.”

Experts on the committee insist that masks are an important tool in containing the spread of the virus. “The committee has already expressed its position that the mask is a key tool in the fight against coronavirus and that it does not affect our lives, in the sense that it is not a restrictive measure,” said Alkiviadis Vatopoulos, professor of microbiology at the University of Western Attica, speaking to Kathimerini. 

Vatopoulos, who is a member of the committee, said Greece’s epidemiological picture, based on data from the National Organization for Public Health (EODY), points to a greater circulation of the virus that the actual case numbers would suggest, and especially in Attica.

“I would like to see masks being made mandatory in almost all public spaces,” said Athina Linou, an epidemiology professor at the University of Athens, speaking to Thema 104.6 radio. “I find our behavior frightening. Whatever the imported cases, if we follow the rules, there the spread will be contained,” she said.

Meanwhile, 35 new infections – including 17 in Attica – were confirmed on Monday, raising the total number to 4,227.

Last week the average daily number of cases in Attica was nine. The problem is not only in the number of new cases but also the fact that many – as reported to Kathimerini by EODY officials – cannot be traced, indicating an underlying spread of the virus.